Hunter of the Shadows
Title taken from a line in Metallica's 'The Thing That Should Not Be'
In Honour of Darksupernatural's birthday.
By Skag Trendy
Foreword by Jen Burch.
I've been honoured to be asked to not only beta this incredible and unprecedented fic, but also to write a foreword for it. I can tell you, I've never had such a wonderful and exciting project to be involved in and am so proud of it and of ST's work, and of my own involvement. I'm grateful to be part of such amazing inspiration and also touched to be trusted with such a special project :)
This fic is something so completely different from anything I've ever read, but it's not in a bad way at all. There's an incredible understanding of the brothers, their relationship, their lives and the effect that different decisions/events could make to who they are. They grow together and independently, and that relationship that we have all loved so much is something that becomes all the more touching. It's a beautiful story and there's something so different and indescribable about it but it's really an atmosphere that I've thrived on and fallen in love with but could never really put into words.
When you find a fic that, late at night when you can't sleep, you find your mind wandering to and drawing comfort from, you know you've found an amazing fic.
ST has worked so long and hard on this piece and I know it's something close to her heart, but I also know how concerned she's been about it. I stand (sit at my laptop hee) here, before ST and the rest of the fic world, and say easily: give this fic a go and you will never regret it. There is just something so special about it, it's more than worth the journey :)
So, on with the show and a big happy birthday to Darksupernatural.!
Warning/Author's notes: Character death – not the boys!!! Fairly dark and blood thirsty. Bad language.
This is completely different from my usual AUs for several reasons. For one it's written from a character's POV which is a new experience for me so please be patient. Also, most of my readers know that I'm a big fan of John Winchester so this fic is particularly difficult given what he does and what transpires as a result.
But when I have taken away...I always give something back and this time I give in the form of the very sexy Hugh Jackman as the charming and mysterious Tobius Le Salle (think of his role in Kate and Leopold and you come very close).
This story also sees the return of one of our favourite bad guys.
This was influenced by Angel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but most of all by the wonderful and talented author Kelly Armstrong. Her supernatural books have been a real inspiration to me.
Out of all characters I would have to say that Dean changes the most in this AU, but without giving too much away he still remains his usual snarky and sarcastic lovable self and I adore him for it.
Many many thanks go out to Jen Burch for the beta and Sendintheclowns for her rallying support, without which I may have lost heart long ago.
Synopsis: Supernatural AU. Teenage Sam and Dean on a hunt with their father but when things go badly wrong it drastically alters the Winchester family dynamics. Will the boys survive? Lots of LIMP Sam and Protective Dean. Nasty psychotic John.
A story told from Dean's POV.
Dean grins into the cam corder.
"I decided to keep a video journal. Just don't tell Sam; I'll never live it down." He glances over at the other bed in the room, smile faltering a little. "He's had a rough time but at least we found somewhere safe. However long that lasts." Dean turns back again, this time his grin isn't quite so good humoured, more desperate. "But there's a few things you need to know. Are you sitting comfortably children? Then I'll begin...
...at the end."
Bullets zipped overhead as we scrambled through the undergrowth and I signalled to him to get a damn move on.
The landscape was scrubby and bare, little more than waste ground with very little cover; getting in had been easy but getting out was proving a bitch. We'd already run into two patrols and only came out of it with our asses intact by sheer dumb luck. The whole thing was a setup, a damn trap. I guess it was only a matter of time before we got fucked over but I kinda hoped we'd have more time to prove our innocence. But no. 'Course not.
If God exists then he's laughing his ass off right now.
Doubling back, sidestepping, circling, every trick in the book...the one I wrote. Sam tracked and followed my every move just as I taught him, as my father had once taught me.
Coming to a sudden halt I lifted my head and watched the darkness. I could feel Sam behind me, sense his fear and excitement, the youngster trembling slightly from the adrenaline. I understood what he felt, that sweet blend of anticipation and dread.
There was another patrol to the south, still tracking us, trying to scare us into making a wrong move. It wasn't going to work. He wasn't going to win this.
But there was something else in the air, another danger close by. Way too damn close as it happened and something barrelled into me from behind just as several shots rang out, knocking me flying, and I took a long tumble into a deep gully, Sam presumably following on.
Winded and pissed, I got to my feet and rounded on him furiously.
What the fuck Sam!
Sorry Dean. Sam flashed blue-green eyes apologetically in my direction then hung his head.
Had no idea what the hell was going on with him lately but it had to stop before he got one of us killed.
We'll talk about this later!
The two of us sped away into the darkness, but as I increased speed I noticed Sam was dropping back a little. Looking ahead I had my explanation in the form of a dense crop of trees. No way could we get through those side by side.
Single file it is then.
No answer. And I soon figured out why when I reached the tree line, grateful for decent cover at last, and turned to Sam...who wasn't there.
Shit! Where is he?
Gradually a dark shape came into view but moving slowly, limping and panting, obviously in a good deal of pain. When he got closer I could see Sam's jaw clenched hard, his eyes narrowed, trying to control the agony and the scent of fresh blood was sickly.
He was out in the open, with the enemy not far off, and if they caught him he wouldn't stand a chance. I shifted my weight then headed back, circling him and checking for injury, nudging him over towards the trees. Sam hissed quietly as he limped onwards, and I watched our backs, listening for trouble.
Anger rose inside when I spotted the gunshot wound and Sam faltered, dropping into a crouch, head hanging down in defeat.
Just a little further I promise.
He shook his head slightly in acknowledgment and moved on but by the time we got to the cover of trees, he was virtually dragging his belly over the dirt and loose rocks. The coppery tang of his blood grew sharply and I glanced at his wound worriedly. Just above his left hip, the bullet had deflected on impact, bruising the muscle but narrowly missing the pelvic bone. Thank Christ!
Sam collapsed just inside our new temporary shelter, and gazed up at me through soft eyes darkened with pain.
God! Those damn puppy dog eyes will be the death of me someday. Still don't think the kid even knows how potent they are.
S'ok Sam. But we need to get deeper into the trees so a little longer for me ok buddy? Nearly there Sammy.
Sam's answer was a slow struggle to stand, swaying lightly from blood loss. Gotta admire the kid; he don't give up easy.
And this aint the first time he's taken a bullet for me.
But last time, one of us was human.
8 years previously...
We'd been hunting, on the trail of a real savage killer. And I mean savage, like rip off your limbs, claw out your guts savage. Only it wasn't just going after humans. Nah, whatever it was weren't that fussy and just slaughtered anything that got in its way. Like for fun or something; 'cos it just left the mutilated bodies for the wildlife to feed off and moved on. Officials told locals it was a bear.
"Aint no freakin' bear." Dad had growled in disgust.
So, plain bullshit as Dad pointed out. For a start, one of the victims actually was a bear and a fucking huge one at that, so whatever chose to steal its porridge had some serious talent in the strength department, know what I'm sayin'?
The claw and teeth marks found on whatever was left of each victim were too small for a bear and too paw-like for a wendigo. Had to be something in between, something with supernatural strength, and given the cunning way it was stalking its victims the damn thing was highly intelligent.
His suggestion of werewolf caused Dad to scoff loudly and point out the lack of a lunar pattern. It wasn't even close to full moon during the attacks, but that didn't keep my tenacious and stubborn little brother from further speculation.
In that geeky way of his, he pondered aloud about the possibility of different species of werewolf in existence, ones that didn't rely on the lunar month, which lead him on to working through some more theories about what other abilities such a creature could possess.
"There's even a European professor of mythology that questions it, has his own website too," Sam had pointed out excitably, turning the laptop round to prove his point.
I felt pretty bad about it later but at the time Dad and I just laughed at him affectionately, whilst my little brother, still at that awkward and permanently embarrassed stage of teenage -hood, flushed bright red and turned his back on us as I ruffled his hair.
We were to learn the hard way that Sam was right.
"Sam? Stay between me and your brother and watch the flanks. Dean? Watch the rear. Let's go!" Dad's loud whisper was immediately followed a by a frustrated sigh from my brother.
"Heads up runt!" I nudged him with an elbow just before we set out.
"I'm almost as tall as you, Dean." Sam shot back.
I grinned at him. "Almost, being the keyword Sammy."
"It's Sam dorkus."
Dad was moving on further ahead; I waited until he was well and truly out of ear shot before taunting my brother again.
"Nice ta meetcha Sam Dorkus; what kinda surname's that anyhow?"
"Dean!" Sam admonished in a manner that was way too adult-like for my comfort. "Would you concentrate? This is serious! One slip and the werewolf..."
"S'not a werewolf Sam. Not lunar remember?"
"Oh right! Just 'cos Dad said so..."
"Are you ever gonna learn to think for yourself Dean?" Sam turned slightly to glare at me. Fortunately Dad was still some way ahead and couldn't hear us arguing. "Or you just gonna rely on everything Dad says?"
Ok. Kid was pissing me off about now. I should've let it go but sometimes he needed reminding just who the big brother was around here.
"Like it or not, Dad knows a damn sight more about it than you! Now quit ya bitchin' and deal with it!"
Sam went quiet after that. I shrugged to myself.
Let him sulk. Real mature.
Maybe I'd been too harsh after all, the little guy did most of the research for each hunt and he hadn't been wrong before. Usually Sam and Dad could agree on a hunt– about the only times they actually agreed on anything in fact, which was a damn miracle in itself.
But this time? They'd definitely clashed. I guess even miracles can run out and I sided, much to Sam's distress, with Dad, figuring that with age and experience came wisdom. I mean, wouldn't you? If you had to make a choice that your family's very lives depended on, you'd pick the older ex-marine not the geeky fourteen year old school kid right? Right?
Ok, don't answer that.
I stared at my brother's back in the gloom as we advanced on Dad's command.
Sam seemed so discontent with life, this life, and he was at constant loggerheads with Dad whenever it was time to move onto the next hunt. It followed the same pattern every time; hours of yelling, followed by the long car journey spent in awkward silence, the atmosphere tense and unyielding.
I once made the mistake of pointing out how very much alike the two of them were.
Dad had merely snorted "If only" and gone back to watching TV, whereas Sam.... huh. I'm not sure which hurt him more; my casual observation or Dad's response to it. But he didn't talk to either of us for three days after that. And if I'd paid closer attention I'd soon have realised that although things weren't right between Sam and John, it wasn't all Sam. There were plenty more digs and throw away hurtful comments directed at my brother but at the time I never really noticed. Things might have gone a whole lot differently if I had.
I'm the first to admit I didn't understand my geeky little brother or where all his anger was coming from, but I sure as hell hated seeing him unhappy.
I knew what he'd been thinking. He was smart, sure, but he couldn't outsmart his big brother. He thought I hadn't spotted them, the way he hid them quickly whenever Dad or I walked in the room.
At first I thought it was porn. I mean, he was a teenager right? At that age my balls were wound tighter than a high tension spring and I was definitely curious about things. So why wouldn't Sam?
So, unless colleges and universities were offering some real liberal courses and research methods then it's safe to say I was very wrong. My fourteen year old brother, who not long ago started shaving and had still to figure out what girls were for, was considering his future. And apparently that future lay somewhere amongst the carefully concealed college brochures I'd discovered under his mattress. My little brother, genius and mastermind, lacked imagination when it came to hiding things from his family.
As horrified as I was at the thought of Sam heading out into the world alone, I had to admit I wasn't surprised.
Not at all in fact. In truth I was bursting with pride because I knew how determined he was to prove himself. A part of me had seen this coming, and like it or not I couldn't stop him. Wouldn't have wanted to, because I could never hurt him like that.
I knew how Dad would react, could see the impending fight in my mind's eye, so I resolved to stay silent for all our sakes.
But Sam would need all the help he could get. As hunters we were never anywhere close to rich, and even with a full scholarship it would still be a struggle for him. I had several years to change that, had already started putting some of my own hard won/earned cash aside for my little brother. Already there was a couple thousand dollars from my last job resting in a thick envelope at the bottom of my duffle. During the day I worked as a mechanic at the local small town garage, but at night I hustled, gambled....you don't really wanna know how far I went, or how far I'm still prepared to go for my Sammy. Suffice to say words like 'virtue' and 'innocence' were lost to me some years back, when Dad left us alone in the middle of winter to go on a hunt, with little more than a can of beans and some stale bread for sustenance.
Rest assured I never missed them.
But Sam deserved better.
I was quite literally knocked out of my thoughts in a flash of fur and teeth. Pinned to the ground by the biggest wolf I'd ever seen, I heard my father and brother shouting as the damn thing loomed over me.
We hadn't been prepared; it must have been as silent as a fart in a crowded lift, watching us. Stalking us. I wanted to laugh out loud. It should have been the other way round – we were the hunters after all.
"Get of me you sonofabitch!" I ground out as the bastard leaned hard on my chest, crushing all the air out of my lungs. He...it seemed to sneer at me, eyes gleaming with its own arrogance until someone fired. The wolf merely howled long and loud, and its amusement turned to anger.
I could feel my eyes widen. Oh Shit!
Its jaws opened, taunting me, and my world shrunk down to just me and the big bad wolf. I struggled hard but the animal's strength was immense. The wolf stilled, watching me, somehow knowing it was safe; there was the glimmer of a keen and eerie intelligence in its eyes that sent a bolt of wonder through me. For a crazy moment there I found myself thinking this was the most beautiful and magnificent wolf I'd ever seen. As wolves go that is.
The spell was broken all too soon as it snapped its head downwards. I tried to roll to the side and it missed my jugular, instead burying its fangs in my shoulder. My responding roar of pain sounded blood curdling even to my ears and the wolf shook its head from side to side as though I weighed no more than a dog's chew toy. Flesh was rendered from bone, muscles and tendons tearing and snapping, warm blood flowing freely and soaking my T-shirt, and I endured it all in a kind of daze, fighting hard against going into shock.
Then suddenly it was gone, and I struggled to keep my eyes open as Sam and Dad advanced on the wolf side by side, maintaining a constant volley of fire.
The wolf was angry but barely injured, and seemed to throw my family a disdainful look which said quite plainly you're not worth the trouble, before bounding away gracefully and disappearing into the shadows.
The world was swimming in front of me, Dad and Sam's voices muffled and faint in my ears as blood continued to flow, and my body throbbed in time with each heart beat.
Sam, get to your brother...
So here we go, the start of a new adventure. Now that it's here, I'm incredibly nervous. There's been such a build up to it, and I really hope you guys aren't disappointed.
Again, please keep an open mind.
Depending on the response, chapter 2 coming up soon.